The Sift: Teen online safety | ‘Shark Week’ | TikTok news


Teach news literacy this week
Teen online safety | ‘Shark Week’ | TikTok news

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Top picks

WARNING: The following top pick includes links to articles that contain profanity and references to sexual content, violence, suicide, death threats and other harmful content.

For kids and teenagers, social media isn’t just TikTok dance videos — it’s also a toxic environment where they face online abuse and unsolicited explicit content. A U.K.-based researcher who spent eight years discussing social media experiences with young people found that many believed oversight of tech companies was only one part of the solution when it comes to online safety. Several expressed hesitations in reaching out to their parents or teachers about their online activities because they worried adults would overreact or trivialize their experiences. Legislation proposed in the U.K. (Online Safety Bill) and the U.S. (Kids Online Safety Act) aims to increase protections for young people online, although it’s unclear how effective the policies would be if enacted.

classroom-ready icon Dig deeper: Use this think sheet to further explore how young people navigate social media and harmful online content.

Most Americans believe social media is bad for democracy, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 19 democratic countries. The study found the United States to be an outlier compared to countries like Japan and Poland, where most residents hold an opposite view and assessed social media’s political impact more positively. The U.S. also had the highest percentage of poll respondents who believed the internet and social media politically divided people (79%) and “made people less civil in how they talk about politics” (69%).


Researchers who analyzed hundreds of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week episodes were “staggered” by their findings of misinformation, including misinterpretations of shark behavior and glorification of wildlife harassment. The scientists also found a lack of diversity among “expert” sources featured on the show.


New data on COVID-19 deaths misused to blame vaccines

An Instagram post features a person talking about a recent Washington Post story and includes the caption, “Washington Post: ‘Vaccinated people now make up a majority of Covid Deaths ... we can no longer say this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.’ Apologies are in order, but also a full reinstatement with back pay of all the fired, to say the very least. Along public hearings and fired ‘health experts’ with no chance of retirement / benefits pay. Let’s start there.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “FLAWED INTERPRETATION.”

YES: A Nov. 23 Washington Post story said that an analysis found for the first time that a majority of recent COVID-19 deaths occurred among people who were vaccinated. NO: This does not mean that the COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective. YES: Since a large majority of Americans have gotten at least their initial rounds of vaccines, people who are vaccinated are likely to make up a larger share of overall deaths from COVID-19. YES: Vaccinated individuals are still at a lower risk of dying from COVID-19 than unvaccinated individuals.

NewsLit takeaway: The base rate fallacy is a logical fallacy in which people ignore the base rate, or general prevalence of something, in favor of event-specific information. While it’s true that vaccinated people made up most coronavirus deaths in recent months, this is because about 80% of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — and this rate is even greater among high-risk groups. Interpreting the data to blame vaccines for the deaths “would be like saying most deaths in car crashes come with people wearing seat belts,” said an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

The Washington Post’s original article on this finding was published under a headline — “Vaccinated people now make up a majority of covid deaths” — that was quickly taken out of context and used to spread anti-vaccination talking points, despite the fact that the report clearly explained the reasons behind the ratio shift in August 2022 and reiterated that vaccinated people are still at a lower risk of dying from COVID-19 than unvaccinated people. The Post subsequently changed the headline to “Covid is no longer mainly a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Here’s why.”

Remember: Headlines (and data) can easily be misinterpreted and presented out of context to further bad faith agendas. Reading past the headline provides crucial details and relevant context that can help people get a better understanding of a topic.


Fake Steph Curry full court shot video presented as genuine on social media

An image shows a tweet from Sports Illustrated that reads “Just finished a shoot with @stephencurry30, this dude just can’t miss” and features a video that supposedly shows the NBA star making five consecutive full court shots. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “DIGITALLY EDITED VIDEO.”

NO: This is not an authentic video of NBA superstar Stephen Curry making five consecutive full court shots. YES: This is a digitally edited video that was created by special effects artist Ari Fararooy. YES: The Golden State Warriors confirmed that this video was fake.

NewsLit takeaway: There’s a long history of fabricated sports videos that supposedly capture amazing feats. NBA stars Michael Jordan and Larry Bird hit a series of increasingly impossible shots in a staged game of HORSE for a 1994 McDonald’s commercial — making it fairly obvious that it was fake. But in the social media era, such fakes are often better disguised and presented as if they capture genuine acts of incredible athletic prowess, such as the videos of NFL quarterback Tom Brady playing catch with a throwing machine, English soccer star David Beckham kicking soccer balls into trash cans or MLB all-star Evan Longoria saving a baseball reporter with a quick-thinking catch. Recognizing patterns and tropes is a great way to avoid getting fooled online. If social media users recall that doctored videos are often used to create viral sports moments, they may be a little more skeptical when encountering the next iteration of this genre.

This example is especially concerning because it was posted — without any labels or disclaimers — by the official Twitter account of Sports Illustrated, a popular source for sports news. The tweet does credit Fararooy — but only the most careful readers with the time and inclination to review his other work would see he’s made a number of similar sports videos.

You can find this week's rumor examples to use with students in these slides.
Sixty-seven journalists and media workers have been killed around the world so far this year — a notable jump from last year’s total (47), according to a report from the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists. Twelve were killed while covering the Russia-Ukraine war, and five were in Pakistan.
A new report from the Asian American Journalists Association found that nearly a quarter of local news stations in the top 20 TV markets “do not have any AAPI reporters on air” (AAPI stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders).
Stanford University is investigating its president for research misconduct — owing in large part to reporting from student journalists on the campus newspaper.
What contributes to a person’s vulnerability to misinformation? The answer, as you might have guessed, is complex. This Psychology Today piece lists age, education, childhood beliefs, personality traits, social groups, low levels of digital and media literacy and feelings of isolation and loneliness as possible factors.
A handful of powerful text-to-image AI generators are already fueling mis- and disinformation online with fake images that appear real.
Think misinformation in politics is new? Not quite. Even the American Revolution was shaped by misinformation and inaccurate sources in newspapers.
TikTok has makeup tutorials, trending recipes, viral lip-syncing and … news! Check out this Reuters Institute report on how publishers are adapting and distributing news on TikTok.
What's ahead for journalism in 2023? This annual feature from Nieman Lab includes “TikTok personality journalists” and a Facebook re-emergence among its roundup of journalism predictions for the coming year.
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Thanks for reading!

Your weekly issue of The Sift is created by Susan Minichiello (@susanmini), Dan Evon (@danieljevon), Peter Adams (@PeterD_Adams), Hannah Covington (@HannahCov) and Pamela Brunskill (@PamelaBrunskill). It is edited by Mary Kane (@marykkane) and Lourdes Venard (@lourdesvenard).

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Check out NLP's Checkology virtual classroom, where students learn how to navigate today’s information landscape by developing news literacy skills.